Interview with returning counselor: Emily Westphal


Emily “Emma D” Westphal

I am from the “Mitten State” aka Michigan. I grew up in Gaylord, but now live in Hermansville, which is in the Upper Peninsula.

What do you do when you are not at your REAL job at camp?


When I am not at my summer home enjoying the beauty of Northern California with some amazing friends, I am an Art Teacher for a small public school district. I teach all ages, starting with young 4’s all the way through middle and high school students. Here is a link to my website:  I also am the Senior class advisor, run an after school art club for elementary students, and coach JV Volleyball. In my free time I love home décor projects, training for my first 5K, keeping in touch with friends, and spending as much time as possible being “Auntie Em” to my adorable niece and nephew.

When did you first start working at CCC?

I first took the leap and came to Coppercreek back in 2009. This summer will be my 6th year on staff, but it seems like time has flown by.

What were your biggest fears about coming to camp?


Coming to camp my first year was like going to college all over again, except this time, I was a flight away from anyone I knew. It was very hard for me to get on a plane and go somewhere that I’ve only seen in pictures. At least when I went to college, I could visit beforehand. I was nervous that I would not connect with anyone, feel homesick, and not be as good of a counselor as the veteran staff.

What was camp like when you arrived?


Chilly. All I can remember is thinking to myself, “Isn’t this California? I thought it was hot all of the time!” That summer, the nights were pretty cold during staff training, and I definitely wasn’t expecting that. The days were beautiful, and that made up for it 100%. The Directors and staff were friendly, welcoming, and I felt at home very quickly. I knew I made the right decision by taking the risk of trying something new.

What are your favorite activities?


My favorite place at camp is the high ropes course. I like to facilitate it as the course supervisor, but I love to be a platform supervisor high up in the trees. The view is incredible, and I love watching campers conquer their fears. In addition, I have come to really enjoy a mountain bike ride here and there. It may not be something I am an expert on, but I love the challenge, and the feeling of satisfaction after completing a hard ride. I also have a soft spot for the talent show, vespers, and dressing up for Friday night dances.

What is your best memory?

I cannot pick one, so I compromised with three.

When I successfully got up on a wakeboard on Lake Almanor with the help of an amazing past counselor, Ryan McDowell.

A silly interpretative dance for the talent show to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King with the amazing Becca Rudy.

Last year at Vespers when Eric James Barger (the first) wrote a piece for me explaining the “Emma D Rule Book for Life” that made both of us cry in front of all of camp.

How did you feel when it was time to leave camp?


Oh man… I am an incredibly emotional person, so I always take it really hard. I realize that I will not see everyone for at least a year, or more, or ever again for that matter, and I become quite sad. After leaving, I go through a period of time at home where I experience “camp withdrawals” and it is odd to adjust to everyday life. I definitely miss everything about Coppercreek instantly.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you came to camp?

So many things. The first thing that comes to my mind is to try everything. You will never what you are capable of unless you give it a shot. Did I think I could fly across the country and make friendships with a “second family” away from home? No. Did I think I could try a riding lesson on a horse? No. Did I think I could complete an element of the high ropes course? No. But instead, I accomplished all of those things. ☺

If you could give campers advice on how to enjoy camp, what would that be?


Try a variety of activities. Be silly. Get to know everyone in your cabin, including your counselor, because they are awesome! Step outside of your comfort zone. Perform something in the talent show. Try a horse lesson if you never have before. Sign up for out of camp trips. Go all out for dance costumes (I do!).


And my top advice: Write down your favorite part of the day before you go to sleep. I call this concept Happy Thoughts. I have a happy thought book including all five of my years at camp, with entries from not only me, but ALL of my cabin members as well. It is SO amazing to look back and remember all of the times over the years. Those books are some of my prized possessions.

What is your favorite quote?

“A happy memory is a joy forever.”

Meet the Balestrini Band!


My name is Emily, one of a growing tribe of Emilys around this place.

I was a camper here before the invention of electric light? Not quite, but I did eat my first ever slice of pizza at the Plumas County Fair in the early 1980s. Hunger drove me over the edge. I came up from Riverside with a cohort of about 7 other kids from our neighborhood, all of whom fell off as we grew up and got interested in other things, but I came until I aged out.


Then I wondered what to do next and how to approach life from that point: fortunately, having to bunk (or camp or backpack!) with strangers for a month each summer gave me the confidence to at least take my chances on places and people I hadn’t yet met, and so far, the experiment feels like a success. Here’s a small thing that meant a lot to me when I was 8: at the opening night campfire in 1978, Papa John stood up and introduced every person there by name, rank and serial number. Granted, the entire camp was 33 people big, but he did that!


Did I mention (ever so subtly?) that I went on Trek two years in a row for a whole month each time? When Lornie was still developing it?

Trek 1986
Trek 1986

The ropes course used to move around, too, for reasons I have never explored; AND campers used to put together a newspaper! With personals and bad jokes and reportage of the events of the session. I LOVE CAMP.


I am a working artist in the Sacramento valley, where I am raising three more Coppercreek campers with the help of my husband/their father, John. He tried to tell me that he went to camp as a kid, but when he finally came up and saw this place in action, he understood things on a whole different level.


As an artist, I focus on making relief prints, but I feel it is important and exciting to step outside my comfort zones and allow myself to fail (sometimes spectacularly!) in other mediums; like clay, for instance. It is interesting that two three-dimensional mediums are so very different.

I like to have a general plan for each day, so when kids ask me what we’re doing that day, I can give them an answer. We’re making candles! or soap! because ART is such a big idea; it’s good to have a trailhead from which to start your explorations. If someone has an idea that they want to develop, I will help guide that, too. An important note here, though, is that while I am a working artist and I am participating in no fewer than three shows this year, I make my living as a technical writer. Few artists are fortunate enough to make a living exclusively from their craft. LIFE LESSONS! In the flesh!

Emily and Jay
Emily and Jay

My favorite part of the Coppercreek day is early morning before the music starts: I like to lie in bed and watch the light change and reflect on what noisy little buggers the birds are, and take in the smell of breakfast being cooked as it mingles with the pines, cedars and oaks: that is when I know that I am truly at home.


Meet Jackie!


Hi everyone!! My name is Jackie and 2013 will be my very first summer as a counselor at Coppercreek!!!

I’m originally from Long Beach California and last year I graduated from Cal State Long Beach with bachelor degrees in music performance and human development. Now I attend The Wright Institute School of Psychology in Berkeley.

Jackie and her celli

I have a very WIDE variety of interests, first and foremost music music and music!!! I play the cello, the guitar and the piano (depending on what kind of day it is).


I am obsessed with musical theatre in every way and on most days you’ll find me singing show tunes or Disney songs (Tangled!!), and/or dancing! I LOVE dance! Especially jazz, hip hop and contemporary.

Jackie and hair bows

I am also obsessed with crafting and I love to make my own hair bows and jewelry.

Jackie at camp

I’m no stranger to the amazingness that is life at camp. I’ve been a camp counselor for 4 years and I was also a camper myself once upon a long time ago and I have the teenaged photos to prove it! I made some of the absolute best friends I have at camp and most of us are still super close (some of us even went to college together!!) I’m really excited to be a part of the camp experience for the Coppercreek campers this year. I am so ready to get the summer started. I know it’s going to be incredible!!!! See you soon!


Coppercreek camper, Omara, creates a wonderful charity to unite children through writing, poems and pictures.

Ella and Omara
Ella and Omara

I recently started a registered charity called WriteUnite. It is essentially an initiative that aims to have all children from all walks speaking all languages writing under a common theme of ‘The Perfect World’ to produce one global voice. This project involves students from around the globe writing short stories (between 1-800 words), poems or descriptions or drawing pictures based upon a prompt which for the first project is ‘The Perfect World’. The contributions they produce will then be submitted to be published into a book. This book will then be distributed to children who have little access to reading materials and will also be sold to raise funds to support this distribution.

More information can be found on the website: WriteUnite

WriteUnite logo– Omara (Monaco)

Mike Craghead: singer/songwriter, artist, cool person

The Climbing
The Climbing Wall

Drawn by Mike Craghead

Mike is one of those really cool people we talk about in our “About Us” section. He was a Trekker, staff member, and maintenance guru until he left us to marry the Arts and Crafts Director, Dawn, and have three equally as amazing children. As well as a talented artist, Mike is also an accomplished musician. Many campers and staff will sigh as they remember listening to Mike perform at Campfire and Vespers. Here is a  Youtube video of one of his performances.

You can also find more of Mike’s music here: Check it out! You will LOVE everything about Mike’s music.